Nobody keeps baby in the corner…

Our little family has changed a lot in the last two years as well. We added Georgia to our family. Del and I struggled in our marriage as we tried to figure out how to go from two people to four (I highly recommend marriage therapy). We left our church of 10 years, and are working to settle into a new church family. My mother and father-in-law moved to be closer to us, and I have never felt more consistent love from my family.

Yet inside of my body I feel so incredibly lost. Someone at work told me they were going to start looking for a new job. When they told me that it caused a spark inside of me that is gradually turning into a brush fire. I applied to a different job within the same company and start next week. When I told my boss that I was quitting my job she asked me why. I told her, “because I haven’t thought about myself in the last four years.” It hasn’t been four years, it’s been 35. Without consciously realizing it, most of the moves I made were to keep myself safe from others.

My childhood was hard. Most days we didn’t know what it was going to be like when he came home. Would he come home with a new movie and we’d get to watch something Disney on VHS? Or would he come home screaming and yelling at us? I quickly learned that the easiest way to survive was to be perfect. It’s hard to be mad at a little girl when she’s getting straight A’s, running lots of clubs, and getting a master’s degree in her twenties. I did it all so he would love me, but he hasn’t called me to check in since… I can’t remember when? It turns out when people are screaming at you it’s really about their pain and not the things you were doing. Why am I living this life pleasing people who don’t care if I’m happy?

I’m trying to figure out what my happy is. I bought a singing bowl in Ann Arbor to practice meditation. Del and I are going to Utah on a spiritual retreat in September. I’m going to try a pottery class in a few months. I’ve been completely changing how I style my hair every single day.

It turns out the little girl who is scared and hiding never fully got to come out. She was trapped in the corner just trying not to get yelled at. I’m trying to let her out more and more and see what she wants to do. Today, she wanted to write this and so I did.

The rocking chair

I rocked my daughter to sleep tonight. She sat cradled in my arms, and we sang together.

“Rock a bye baby, on the tree top …”

Our rocking chair creeks and we sway forward and back.

“Rock” – creek – “a bye” – creek – “baby” creek…

And the right arm is broken.

“On” – wobble – “the” – wobble “tree” – wobble…

The chair was a gift, handed down from when my parents moved from my childhood home. I remember the chair sitting in a corner of my parent’s bedroom. The slider door on the left, and the chair on the right.

I remember the last time I was rocked. My legs ached from growing pains. My mom held me and rocked me until the pain subsided.

And I remember the chair in pieces. The arm on the floor. A crack where it was once afixed to the seat. He broke it the day of the big fight. And after that, things were different.

When we came home from going away the chair was glued back together. But the image of it in pieces is fused in my mind.

I thought about not taking the chair. But the idealist took over. “A loving home can make it right!” I thought enough rocks could ease the painful memories.

It hasn’t though. I rock, and it creaks. And instead of taking me back to a place of peace, I go back to hiding under the pool table. And instead of seeing my daughter’s face, I see shards of wood strewn across the floor.

My husband tried to fix the arm. But the glue wouldn’t stick. I lean forward, and the wobble gets worse. I know one day I’ll lean hard enough and it will totally break.

I hate that chair. I stare at it, and see that no amount of love can fix it.

Wayfair had a sale. Rocking chairs – 50% off. I put it on the credit card. It will be here in a few days.

Maybe I’ll regret it. But no one else asked for the chair. No one has else tried to keep it. We tried to glue it all together and it all fell apart.

When the new one comes, I’m not sure what we’ll do. A fire? A baseball bat? A slow dismantle and tears? A simple move to the basement? I just don’t know.

All I know is that I can’t look at it anymore. And in a few days, I won’t have to.

How do we see others?

How do we choose to see other people?

And what does that mean about how we see ourselves?

At counseling a while ago, her closing remark to me was, “You are doing almost everything right. And you need to start focusing on the good things you are doing.”

Like people, my view of others and myself is simple and complex simultaneously. In a moment it is black and white, and then upon reflection there are more than fifty shades of gray. There are back stories, weird moments, genetics, parenting, feelings that should have been squashed but came alive, and who even knows what else?

“Jenn is the worst. An inconsiderate and selfish thief who cares nothing for her family or for others.”

While also…

“How sad she must feel to cause herself and others such pain. She can’t be a true narcissist. I hope whatever is causing her pain ends soon.”

And on myself…

“I’m so glad I’m not as inconsiderate as <insert name of person I’m judging>.”

While also…

“What does <insert name of person I’m feeling insecure about> have that I do not? Smarter? Kinder? Better looking? A better soul? What do I lack? Where have I failed?”

In moments and thoughts my brain will drift between strange extremes. Others and myself are the best, worst, deepest, most shallow people I know. I make others and myself the hero and villain at the same time.

The truth of a person, is of course, somewhere in between those shades. Maybe they are gray, but maybe they are purple, green, orange, fuschia, turquoise, or something else? We are bright shining examples of the best of humanity is some areas. We are just plain damn average in most areas. And in other areas, we are dark, gray, weak, and struggling.

Yet it all begs the questions, “How should we view ourselves?” and “How should we view others?”

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7, 1-5 (NIV)

And also…

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13, 34 (NIV)

A person who is truly self-reflective, is often freer from judgement. The ability to look within, see your own flaws and then ask “Why am I judging this person?” is a skill. But it is also something that is demanded of us. Being cruel is easy (I know, because I can be great at it). Yet taking the plank from our own eye is the only thing that gives us a clear view of the humanity of others.

Of course, Biblical context is everything. In John, Jesus is speaking to his disciples a short time before Peter will deny him. He is telling the church that will be built what is needed of us. After betraying him, and after denying him, Christ did not falter to lay down is life for his disciples. Let’s be honest, I’m probably not ever going to reach that level of grace and forgiveness. But I let myself be inspired by His gift.

We steal, because we are lacking. We lie because we are empty and filling a void. Others are worthless, because we feel worthless. That is not how God sees us. He tells us simply that he loves us, and that in return – we are to love others. With his remaining moments, God asks us to see us and others as whole people who are worthy. Worthy of love, beauty, and redemption.

I pray I can be better at seeing myself and others with such light.

On the sins of our fathers…

Pastor John explained it to us. “We all inherit the sins of our fathers. Sin is passed down from generation to generation.” At the time, I thought of the notion of inherited sin like a genetic pre-disposition. Like my mother’s brown hair, I inherited the wrongs she committed.

Becoming a mother has drastically changed how I view most of the world. I drive a lot slower, because I want to make sure Carly’s mom makes it home every night. I rush less, because nothing is as important as my family. I also view my parents much differently.

If I yell at Carly, how does that shape her as a person? If I feed her certain foods, what will happen to her as she grows? Am I doing things that help her become better? Or am I making choices that will damage her? When I think of what terrifies me as a parent, a great fear that strikes me is the idea that I could make a choice, or a series of choices, that would cause Carly to dislike me as her mother. I can imagine few things more painful than a child hating a parent, when the parent was trying their best.

Alcoholism is the sin of my family. No, I don’t mean drinking occasionally. I mean that when you look at my family tree, many members have struggled to deal with the influence of alcohol in their lives. For some, it was an occasional misgiving that lead to a few apologies. For others, it meant their children were left at home alone while mom and dad drank the day away at a bar. Alcohol is not the devil, but alcoholism can be.

I often wondered whether my personal branch of the alcoholism tree would be hit with similar misgivings. Would I inherit a great grandparent’s taste for drinking? Fortunately – I did not.

Before I can remember, I had heard stories of my father struggling. Fortunately for me, he overcame that struggle. As a little girl, I cannot recall a time where I saw my mother or father drinking or drunk. The only time I recall alcohol in the house was when we bought it for guests staying over. When I think of my father, I will never think of him as an alcoholic. His choices were a gift to my memory of him. His choices also meant that Carly will never have to grow up with a mother who struggles with alcohol.

My grandmother fought many struggles. When my mother asked her about her parenting choices, grandma responded with, “I did the best I could with what I had.” My parents have failed in some of their choices with my brothers and I. As a new mother, it humbles me to see that I will fail as well. Every parent will make choices they wish they could redo.

It would be so easy to write off every person who ever hurt us. It takes so little effort to see ourselves as victims. That perspective denies our own power and removes us from the accountability we should take for our own choices. Yes, our parents influenced us, but at the end of the day each of us is accountable for our own actions.

To me, inherited sin is the choice we make – or stop making as parents to our children. We chose peace over anger. We chose calm over yelling. We chose sobriety instead of drinking. While we may struggle with some sins more than others, we can overcome what we have seen in the generation before us. Parents are just people, and all people will fail at some things. Sin and failure are why Christ gives us grace. I hope and pray that where I see failure in others, I also grace abundant. Because some day, Carly will look at me with as much judgement as I have looked at others. In that moment, I hope she sees a person who did the best she could with what she had.

On rounding up…

Five years ago I listened to a man on NPR talk about his fear of failure. Do you ever listen to something you know to resonate within your soul, but not know how to take action on?

Five years ago I listened to a man on NPR talk about his fear of failure. Do you ever listen to something you know to resonate within your soul, but not know how to take action on?

The man talked about how he felt like his entire life he never failed, and he thrived off his own perfection. However, eventually, he had a break down when he could not keep up with unrealistic standards. Of course, the problem with perfection is: it’s impossible.

My office mates have been teasing me for weeks, “Is everything you do perfect?”

My husband tells me, “You never mess up. I wish you would sometimes.”

The toll of my own perfection is exceptionally exhausting.

Never miss an email, return every call, every decimal point is rounded perfectly, every color combination matches, and no word is spoken out of turn.

My inner critic has no end to my own faults. I ask Del five times a day if I’m a bad mom. Yesterday I asked if I was a bad mom because I was washing Carly’s bottles instead of holding her. Facebook has taught me that if you don’t spend every minute of your life staring at your child, you will miss SOMETHING and regret whatever other thing you were doing in the minute.

Friends of mine came up with the term “round up.” Research shows that women consistently underestimate our abilities. We don’t apply for jobs unless we meet most criteria, and we don’t push for raises unless we’re 1,000% certain we deserve them. Instead of underestimating our internal (and numeric) value, we need to round up.

A few weeks ago, I took a day off of work because I was exhausted. One day turned into two. Then, the week-end hit, and I spent most of it sleeping. My brain finally hit the breaking point. Between being a wife, motherhood, and work, the voice telling me I was not doing enough – and I was not doing it perfectly – burned me out.

I spent a long time thinking of my inner critic. It’s that idiotic little voice telling me nothing is quite as good as it could be. My hair is straight, but there are a few strands always out of place. That report is 98% perfect, but that 2% is enough to ruin everything. After careful consideration, I know where the voice arose and how it kept growing. But honestly – that is all too much to process in one blog post.

But knowing the source, I did something different: I finally gave up.

I put a sign on my computer last week: “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”

Last week I hit send on emails with typos. Last week I stopped overthinking my answers at work and just started muttering. I had a few Facebook posts without commas, a few reports where the font in the table didn’t match the font in the body. But somehow, the world kept turning and no one died.

As it turns out, the inner critic was never keeping me safe – it was holding me back. He should have been telling me I’m beautiful, talented, and my level of detail is unparalleled. But he’s kind of an ass face, and does not like to say nice things.

Lent is upon us. One year I gave up drinking a pack of cherry cola a day. For four years I tried to give up swearing (but that shit never takes….). This year, I’m giving up on my inner critic, and my implausible quest for unattainable perfection. I’m going to think less, react from my gut, and start to tell myself “Damn girl – round up! You got this.”


The Things We Never Carry…

We sat there, three years ago, she and I.

The things he had done to others read like a terrible movie script.

It started off with a few drinks, then grew to more. Then, it morphed into pain pills. Pain pills became an escape from everything. Eventually he stopped remembering to pick up their three kids up from school. Until one day he lied about driving home with the kids in the back – completely wasted.

They’ve been divorced for about two years now. She just started dating and is rebuilding a life that she saw disintegrate. No, she wasn’t a perfect wife. She didn’t give him enough attention. She held a grudge and never seemed engaged in what he loved to do.

As for him? As of today the life I was saw him lead has totally crumbled. The guy that once prayed for Del and I is no longer exists. Maybe he never did anyway? As far as we know he has few friends, few hobbies (other than drinking and pills), and continues to be okay slipping further away from the light. We thought he’d hit rock bottom a while ago, but we learned our definition of rock bottom is not shared by him.

I’m not here to pass judgement on him. On the contrary, me heart hurts for the pain he must carry. Sure, maybe he’s just an asshole, narcissistic, addict. But I don’t think so.

I wish he was my only old friend who chose to fall away. But as time passes the list of people that choose darkness seems to grow. And as that list grows I found myself wondering: are they carrying everything, or are they refusing to carry anything?

Like any sane person I’ve dreamed of what wise and blunt things I could say. The words go something like, “You dumb shit head. EVERYONE HAS PROBLEMS. The earth stops for no one. The biggest thing in your way is yourself. Get off your bitch ass, stop hurting everyone, and find a way to fix your problems. God loves you, and He forgives you. Always. ”

But those are words I think, but never speak.

I’m aware of the reality that few of us want advice, but yearn merely for affirmation. I’m not alone in that. I rarely want feedback, and instead want to hear how great I’m doing. Sure, I’m not doing drugs. But drugs aren’t the only habits that split us from people. What does my own pride cause me to fail to see? What grief or anger am I refusing to forgive and confront?

I’m aware the we cannot make people see what they do not want to see. In the book the Wizard of Oz, Oz was never green. The Wizard gave the whole town green glasses. As a result they believed their beautiful city was shiny and bright and green. But one day they were told to take the glasses off. When they took them off, they realized a man behind a wall had been lying to them about their entire reality.

We all have our own set of glasses. There’s a man behind a wall constantly limiting our view. For some of us, we gradually get to see more and more and our view becomes wider. Others never even know they have glasses.

There’s only been one way out of any mess we create. That way is out and through. Whatever shit we create, if we want it to end we have to endure the pain we cause. For me, confronting my own failures and the pain they have caused others is hard. Knowing I fell short and knowing I caused someone pain just sucks ass. Thank God for grace.

I believe in grace. I know it’s there for me as it is for everyone, and all I ever have to do is accept it. The grace of God is always here for us, and it’s easy and free. But first, we have to see what we are carrying. Some of us will be fortunate enough to see what we carry and how it causes us to fall. I pray I continue to accept grace every day, and I hope to gradually see the things I didn’t even know I was carrying.

On Killing my Darlings…

Sometimes when you want to grow – you have to kill your darlings.

To innovate, to create something new – to move beyond what you are and into what you want to be – you have to kill your darlings.

Darlings are precious little things. I’ve become accustomed to holding onto them when I need to feel comforted. What are my darlings?

• I love my little charts and graphs. Give me some numbers, and I’ll make them visual.
• Analyzing people is a favorite past time. Finding an origin issue, yes please! Pointing out a pattern of behavior? I’d love to!
• Justified anger. Give me a social justice issue and I’ll gladly yell about it from the top of my lungs.
• Gossiping. Whispering little things about people.
• Cutting myself down so I never get too big.

I love my little darlings, big and small. When I feel scared I can fall into them. After years of clutching onto them I’ve begun to wonder: how are they serving me? Are they serving anyone else?

• Yes, probably.
• Maybe.
• Not really.
• Hell no.
• Oh. No.

How do you kill a darling when you love it so much? Can you drown it or bury it six feet under? That seems doubtful and unlikely. But it’s a question I’ve spent months thinking about.

When you finally know and see the things you can overcome to move onto something better why do we stop jumping? Is getting angry about a social issue and screaming about it really serving anyone? Not really. Is whispering little things about people I know helping myself or another person? No, it is not. And ultimately, do any of these things make me feel better about myself? No, they don’t.

Darlings are like sleeping on an old mattress. You know what it’s like – you know every curve and divot. You’re accustomed to what laying on it will feel like. But the longer you lay in that same spot the more your body aches. The support has worn out, bed bugs are starting to crawl, and you really need to get new mattress.

So for the last few months, killing my darlings has been my goal. And as much as I hate cliches, here’s what I’ve been attempting to do to help me move forward.

1) See a darling
2) Confront it, and then ask
3) Am I reacting out of fear and anger? Or am I reacting out of love and kindness?
4) If its fear and anger – try to abort. If it’s love and kindness, try to go for that.

I don’t know how long it will take to kill these things, but I’m guessing a while. They’ve been here for decades, so why would they just cease overnight?

But, I’m trying.

On washed in the blood or the water…

The Old Testament called for animal sacrifices for the redemption of sin.

The best animals were carried up mountains and through desert lands so they could be slain.

We fell from God. Ever since the moment we fell, we’ve been trying to get back to perfection. We shed the blood of animals to forgive inequities. We shed blood hoping we would someday get back to perfection.

In our culture, we are often removed from the blood of animals. We see violence on television, but outside of working in the medical field or butchery, we seldom see blood.

Sometimes I imagine how much blood was spilled. Hundreds, thousands, millions of gallons? Probably.

What would that be like (not that I would’ve carried out the sacrifice) to literally be covered in the blood of a spotless lamb?

We all know the verse….

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I memorized the creed…

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

Lately, I’ve began to wonder how much people really understand the grace that comes with such a sacrifice.

Have you ever carried a spotless lamb for thirty miles up a mountain? Animal sacrifices for the redemption of sins are rare – they are also unnecessary.

God gave us His son, so we could forever be washed in the blood of The spotless lamb.

Are you washed in the blood, or just in the water?

I’ve lost count of the number of people who are surprised that I drink and swear.

I’ve never found my swearing or the glass of wine I drink with dinner to conflict with my beliefs.

Somewhere along the line it seems like it has become more important ‘To Do’ all of the ‘Right’ things rather than simply believing in and accepting grace.

If Christ died for the redemption of sins, why do I see so many people pretending they can somehow be perfect?

We all have different ways that we honor our God. Some sing to praise. Some grow their beards out of honor, others wear dresses. It is not those things that give me concern.

Do not drink. Do not smoke. Do not dance. Comb your hair this way. Comb your hair that way. Do not… do not… do not…

Why have so many washed their hands of things that never made them unclean in the first place?

If there is no grace, there is no forgiveness. If there is no forgiveness, there is no redemption. If there is no redemption, than the blood of Christ has no meaning.

Christ died for all.

Our own scale of judgment is too poor of quality for what would be necessary for all of mankind. We see and judge what is in front of us. We our subject to time, our experience, what we ate at dinner, what our spouse said to us 15 minutes ago, the media, our lifespan….

God’s scale of judgment is…. I don’t even know. I can only see for short period of time. So what I see as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ is highly subject to my minimal experience. God’s scale spans for all of eternity, across billions of people, across thousands of cultures and languages. It cuts through my own preconceived notions of right and wrong.

So who am I to judge? I am not the great I Am. But He is.

He died for us. He shall judge us.

Water cannot make us clean. Only the blood can.

On the color orange…

Today, on the way home from church, my husband said something to me that made my week.  He looked at me and said, “I can see that you are almost back to being yourself.”

I guess I should say more about that.

When I was in college, I was as active as humanly possible.  I was president of the student senate, I was vice president of my sorority, I was a little sister to a fraternity, I tried to join every club I could, and I tried to meet as many people as possible.  I was loud.  I was commanding.  I was crazy.  I loved every, single, beautiful moment.

My junior year of college I met a boy.  The first year we dated was lovely.  However, by year two, everything started to crumble.  The boy became controlling, emotionally abusive, and downright mean.  I was ignorant, and I thought that if I married that boy he would change.  So when I was 22, I got married.  As you can guess – things went from bad to terrible.  The boy became worse and worse.

Before I started dating my now ex-husband, I started out as a bright shiny orange sculpture.  Gradually, I was painted over with colors that dulled me.  My ex did not like that I was active, so he dulled the orange with some bland yellow. Then, he didn’t like my friends – so he put some green over the yellow.  Then, he didn’t like my hair, my clothing, how I spent money, my cooking, my cleaning, my family, my love of baking, my religious beliefs… so layer by layer paint got added on until I was the dullest tan you could ever imagine.  I wasn’t allowed to cook what I wanted, bake what I wanted, see my family, talk to my friends, or attend church.  I was finally palatable to my ex, but I felt dead on the inside.

They say that when you have post-traumatic stress disorder you do not just shut down the tough emotions (like fear, anger, or sadness).  In order to cope with traumatic events, you shut down everything.  I did that too.  In order to cope with being in an abusive marriage, I shut down everything.  I no longer felt fear when I was yelled at.  I could not cope with the sadness of not being able to do the things I loved, so I even shut out my grief.  My fear was gone, but so was my happiness, my joy, my light.

After years of hoping things would getting better, and seeing them gradually get worse – I decided that I either had to die or I had to leave.  I decided to leave.  I asked my ex-husband for a divorce, and we parted ways (I’ll write more about that whenever I am ready).

Everyone experiences or feels the love of God differently.  Some people feel God’s love when they walk through nature.  Some feel God’s love when they sing.  I, however, see the love of God when I am by people.  I see the love of God the most when I get to interact with children at church.

Children are the best thing in the world. In particular, I think toddlers are the most amazing miracles ever created.  They are amazing, because they are all bright, and shiny, and orange.  They scream when they want something.  They cry when they have to.  They are not afraid to be exactly who God intended them to be.  My favorite children (although I probably shouldn’t admit this) are the ones that are super crazy.  They won’t sit still, they run around like crazy, they dance, they sing…. They know they are perfect – because God made them that way.  Every time I teach Sunday school, I try to soak up a bit of the perfection.

Two years ago I started baking again. I started with simple cookies, and now I’ve worked my way up to expensive cakes (eek!).

A year ago I started teaching Sunday school.  I am active in my church, I get to read my Bible whenever I want, and I am growing in my faith.

Now, I get to talk to my new friends and my old friends as often as I want.  They love me as I am, and they support who I am trying to become.

Now, I get to talk to my mother whenever I want.  I love hearing her voice.  She makes me feel calm.

Now, I get to be exactly the way that God intended me to be.

I still feel like I am covered in a few layers of paint.  Yet, each month, I shed a layer…

I am now happily married to a wonderful man named Del.  He is, quite possibly, the best husband in the entire universe.  My identity is not centered on my husband; however, with my husband’s love and support I am learning to let myself be the woman God created me to be.  Sometimes I am saddened by the fact that I am not the same person I use to be.  I miss the days when I was brave enough to talk to any stranger, and the days where I could command a room.  Some days I cry because I feel like I missed out on years of my life, buried under a terrible marriage.  I can either choose to wallow in pity, or I can move on and be happy that I am here – and that God has given me a second chance.  I choose to take the second chance.

With this second chance, I choose to peel away all of the layers. Surrounded by great friends, the love of my mother, some chocolate cake, an amazing husband, the grace of God, and some bright orange children – I know that I am on the right path.

On forgiveness…

Task one: housekeeping.  I am going to be honest here – I started this blog for self-affirmation.  I started when I was in a transitional period in my life, and I needed something to make me feel good.  Almost a year later, I am at a different place and the blog has morphed into something else.  Our church talks a lot about doing things to glorify God – and not yourself.  I feel as if this blog has morped into that.  I am not saying “Listen to me because I have all of the answers from God” because I DO NOT.  I am not saying “I know how to do everything – follow me!” because in the context of an entire life I know very little.  What I am trying to say, is that lately I feel called/forced to write about topics that do not really benefit me.  I feel a different urge to write about topics that can help other people.  I feel like what I am supposed to write about is topics where I have struggled and/or failed, and the lesson I learned.

Task two: blog.

This is about to get real personal.  If you don’t like heavy topics click to something else (click here for happy kittens).  It will also end on a positive note.  So – heavy then positive.

Perhaps the greatest failure in my first marriage (I’m divorced and now remarried) is that I was not very forgiving.  My ex-husband would fail me in some way, and I would not forgive him.  This led to anger and resentment – and obviously – a marriage that did not work.  In my defense, the marriage needed to end (more on that some other day).

Ok – deeper story.

When I was about six years old, I was molested by my babysitters.  The babysitters were about twelve and ten.  Eventually, my parents found out.  The police were involved.  The court system was involved.  Lots of counseling was involved.  Our entire family was hurt.

For years I was embarrassed by the event.  I felt like it was my fault.  I felt sad.  I also felt a lot of anger towards the babysitters.  When I was sixteen years-old I was sitting in a counselor’s office telling her about the event.  The counselor said to me “I would bet anything that those girls were being molested in their own home – probably by their mother or father.”

That day, I began to forgive the people that had molested me.  There are lots of terrible things in this world.  Being molested by your babysitters is a terrible thing.  However, I can imagine very few things that are worse than being molested by your parents.  That day, I saw that the people that hurt me did so because they had been hurt too.  That day, I realized that the people that hurt the most people……… are usually the ones that have been hurt the most by others.

Forgiving others does not mean that we condone their behavior or continue to endure it.  It means that we choose to let go of the pain a certain behavior has had on our lives.

When I scroll through Facebook or when I talk to people I know, I hear from lots of people that have been hurt.  I know they have been hurt, because they write about being angry and post pictures about how they will never trust anyone.  I know they are feeling pain because they tell me they are bitter and angry.  I listen to this pain, and I literally cry.  I cry because I imagine that the pain they are feeling is crushing their lives.

For years, I held onto the painful things my ex-husband did to me.  Lately, I have started to forgive and let that go.  I let it go, because if I do not it will kill me.  It will turn me into someone who is angry and bitter.  It will kill my new marriage.

The Bible tells us that we are to treat others as we want to be treated.  If I never err or fail, than I never need to forgive.  However, I am human and I mess up A LOT.  If I am ever going to have any type of enduring relationship I will need to be forgiving, so that the other person can (hopefully) forgive me when I fail (which I will).

The Bible also tells us that we do not forgive others – we will not be forgiven by God.  I am not saying “Forgive others or you don’t get the ticket to heaven,” because I don’t think that is what that passage is saying.  I am saying that if you do not forgive others you will never have an understanding of Grace, and what it is like to be forgiven.  And if you never know Grace… well… then what is the point?

I cannot make someone else forgive what another person has done to them.  But I can promise you that if you do not practice the act of forgiveness, it kills you from the inside out.  When we hold onto pain, it crushes us.  When we choose to feel pain instead of forgive, it kills us from the inside out.

For me, forgiveness also takes time.  When I was sixteen, I started forgiving the people that molested me.  But to this day, I continue to say to myself “God, I forgive them.  God, help me forgive them.”  But a lot of the pain has passed, and now I wish the girls and their family well.  I hope they are happy.  I hope they find love and peace.

I have started to forgive my ex-husband.  He hurt me terribly.  But if I want to move on in my life, I have to let go.  So I pray “God, help me be forgiving.  Help me let go of this pain.”  The pain has started to pass.  I wish my ex-husband well.  I hope he is happy.

And I pray, God – let me see where I am holding onto pain.  Let me see where I have not been forgiving.  Help me to let go of the things that bind me – so I can move forward.  So I can live.

It takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes LOTS of effort.  But, for me, it has been worth it.  There are still days I struggle with what happened to me when I was a child.  There are movies I can never watch and news stories that shut me down.  There are days I cannot stop crying, and days where my husband cannot touch me.  But if I can forgive people the hurt me so deeply – I can forgive anything…………. and you can too.